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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Longest-serving political prisoner still under house arrest after release

May 27, 2013

May 25, 2013: Almost a month after his release from prison on 24 April 2013, Lobsang Tenzin was finally allowed to see his extended family members and relatives. However, he still remains under house arrest and constant police supervision. He cannot meet non-family members and may only leave his house to go to the hospital with a police escort.

Lobsang Tenzin spent half of his life in Chinese prisons before his release. After initially being sentenced to death Lobsang Tenzin’s sentence was eventually reduced to 18 years in addition to the six he already served.

Lobsang Tenzin was arrested and sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer who fell from a window during protests in 1988. However, Lobsang Tenzin was not involved in the police officer’s death. The injustice of Lobsang Tenzin’s sentence gained international attention and in 1991 his death sentence was changed to life in prison. In 1994, Lobsang Tenzin’s sentence was reduced to 18 years plus the six years he had already served.

In 1991 Lobsang Tenzin tried to raise awareness of the abhorrent prison conditions including torture by attempting to give a letter to the United States Ambassador James Lilley detailing the abuse. The prison authorities caught Lobsang Tenzin and his fellow inmate Tenpa Wangdrak before they could deliver the note. Both were secretly transferred and placed in solitary confinement for 3 weeks.

When Lobsang Tenzin was released from prison in April-end 2013 he had the unfortunate distinction of being the longest serving political prisoner in Tibet. Despite being a healthy 24 year-old university student when he was arrested, Lobsang Tenzin left prison 25 years later with numerous serious health problems. He currently suffers from back problems that make it difficult for him to stand and diabetes that damaged his kidneys and eyes and caused temporary blindness.

After spending more than half his life in prison where he lost his youth and health the Chinese insist on imposing strict limitations on his “freedom” outside of prison. It was almost three weeks before the Chinese police allowed Lobsang Tenzin’s family to see him and his friends are still prohibited from visiting him. Considering Lobsang Tenzin’s poor health and that he is more familiar with life inside prison than outside the house arrest and visitation limits are inexplicable. That Lobsang Tenzin is still being punished for a crime he did not commit is inexcusable.

Accordingly, TCHRD urges the Chinese government to free Lobsang Tenzin from the restrictive house arrest and provide Lobsang Tenzin with medical treatment in the care of his family and relatives so that he may live in Tibet as a freeman. Twenty-five years ago, Lobsang Tenzin was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, he should not still be suffering for that same crime today.

For more on Lobsang Tenzin, please see

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